My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (40-31)
40. Revolution (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 13
Main Composer: Lennon
The first time I heard ‘Revolution’ was watching a documentary about Lennon when I was about 11 and I was so blown away by that intro that I didn’t really take in the rest of the song. Sure it is a rip off, or homage if you like, of Pee-Wee Crayton’s 1954 blues track ‘Do Unto Others,’ but the combination of Lennon’s guitar and McCartney’s howl was just too much wonderfullness to take. I am not exaggerating. I am pretty sure I had to lie down afterwards. While occasionally screaming: ‘I love you John!’
A couple of years later, I listened to the White Album for the first time (or The Beatles to give its actual name) and was disappointed by the shoo be doo wopping pace of ‘Revolution 1’: It sounded like a windy down tape…Had I imagined the manic and joyful ferocity of the first?
Nope. There are a few different versions of this song. The one above, featured on Past Masters, is my favourite. And I was not the only one. Lennon wanted ‘Revolution’ to be a single but McCartney thought the ‘Revolution 1’ cut was too slow and Harrison backed him up (I am not sure where Ringo was at the time. Possibly mowing the lawn) but Lennon was determined to get his political message out there so agreed to change the pace.
Because of course, it is a political song. Indisputably. It was 1968 and America was still at war with Vietnam. Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Shit was going down. And Lennon went against the wishes of their now deceased manager Epstein, and decided that The Beatles were going to take a stand. Now with Yoko, there was a different energy to everything he did and he/she/they felt that he should use his music to spread the message about…whatever.
What exactly are his views? You would be forgiven for not really having a clue because the words are somewhat overpowered by the unusually hard rock edge of the track particularity the noisy as all fuck guitar. Behind the backs of the technical people, presumably they got Ringo to get a long coat and pretend to deliver a pizza to the studio as a distraction, they overloaded the recording console to create that awful distorted racket towards the end of the song. I love it. Don’t get me wrong. But my point is this: If you really want someone to read your message, don’t put it inside a really funky bottle or nobody will notice because they will be distracted by the funky bottle.
I speak shit, of course people noticed the politics, everyone cared what The Beatles had to say back then. So what was Lennon’s big point? Essentially he is saying if you are going to fuck shit up you should at least have a plan. If you are going to hurt others you don’t have his blessing. Except he dithered a bit at first…
If you do listen to ‘Revolution 1’ you can hear that one of the lyrics went: ‘But when you talk about destruction…Don’t you know that you can count me out, in’ and he also says ‘out, in’ in the live version of the ‘rock’ edition of the track…Are you following? Please say you are following…
Let me break it down:
Rev 1: More bluesy and low, he says ‘Count me out, in’
Revolution: Faster and with added rock. He says ‘Count me out’ But when he performed it live you can hear him say ‘Count me out, in’
Revolution 9: The shit of a horse and one of the several reasons I am not going to get into here why I never really cared for The White Album as a whole.
So why does that one word matter? It adds/removes ambivalence. On one hand, he is torn, but by the time the single came out (Only as a B Side, to ‘Hey Jude’ of all things) he was sure: Violence = Lennon out *literal microphone drop.* Some praised his convictions, others grumbled. Lennon continued to qualify his statements as the years went on:
‘The lyrics stand today…They’re still my feeling about politics: I want to see the plan…I want to know what you’re going to do after you’ve knocked it all down. I mean, can’t we use some of it? What’s the point of bombing Wall Street? If you want to change the system, change the system. It’s no good shooting people.’
Lennon said this in 1980. Shortly before he was…you know. Murdered. Yeah. Maybe there was something to his ideas after all.
Depressing thoughts aside, I still have tremendous affection for the version of ‘Revolution’ known simply as ‘Revolution,’ especially the live version where the boys rock out. I love comparing this band to the band they were at the beginning. Their evolution was a revelation!
McCartney may have been little more than humouring Lennon’s political ranting (After all, a saccharine ‘you can do it’ song written by McCartney alone was still the lead single, suggesting he didn’t truly subscribe to Lennon Politics 101) but his bitchin’ backing vocals are wonderful and the track fits neatly next to ‘Helter Skelter’ in my Beatles list as an example of how heavy the boys could be when they felt like it. Listen… And imagine 11 year old me, completely missing the historical subtext and Lennon’s conviction and just thinking he was oh so dreamy…
Rock on my babies.
Favourite Bit: The first few seconds can’t really be topped for me. Lennon’s guitar and McCartney’s howl. All it takes to make me happy.
39. Ticket to Ride (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 17
Main Composer: Lennon (with McCartney)
What made John Lennon and Paul McCartney become friends in the first place? McCartney has publicly recalled how unappealing he found Lennon the first time they met as youngsters at a town fête because up close the older boy smelled like beer. When he tells this story, it is said fondly, like McCartney is shaking his head in amusement at his baby self, knowing that the sniffy youth is going to get caught up in a hell of a lot more than a sneaky sip of alcohol. Nonetheless, the first impression tells a story: These two were not cut from the same deck. What they had in common was the music. That was it. A love of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Elvis…When both men were asked for explanations of the ambiguous lyric: ‘She’s got a ticket to ride’ McCartney opted for ‘A British Railway ticket to the Isle of White’ and Lennon claimed it was the card Hamburg hookers carried to prove they didn’t have STI’s. I know who I believe.
Lennon’s claims McCartney’s contribution to this song was telling Ringo what to do on his drums, but McCartney, possibly channelling his younger self, piped up that in actual fact they wrote it together, side by side, although he would be a gentleman and give Lennon 60% credit. Oh boys. Why must you be so…You? Actually I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it weren’t for the constant competition, I sincerely doubt the sound of The Beatles would have evolved as it did.
Is ‘Ticket to Ride’ a song worth fighting over? Yes. It is beautiful. A wistful track, wonderfully sung, when some fantastic changes of paces such as the bridge ‘Don’t know why she’s riding so high…’ and the outro of ‘My baby don’t care…’ and some great ominous, stormy drumming from Mr Starr. Respect him I say! Respect the narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine or I will slash you!*
What I love about The Beatles, and it is impossible for me not to keep repeating this, is how they took clichés ideas like: ‘Oh dear my girl has left me whatever shall I do?’ and made it unique and punchy. This song is so very punchy. Listen to that shift in tone between ‘I think I’m going to be sad’ and ‘You better think twice, you better do right by me’ There is menace in a lyric like that and I doubt it was there accidentally. The electric guitar over acoustic, the upper range on the fade out…All these little technical choices that just add to what may have been a fairly simple idea. And they knocked it up in about 3 hours. When James Paul McCartney met John Winston Lennon they were both keen amateurs. It wouldn’t be long before they were rewriting the rules of music. All in their efforts to best one another. Thank the Lord for town fêtes.
* I won’t slash you. That would be wrong.
Favourite Bit: I find it very hard to choose…The guitar work, the rhythm section, the vocals, all those wonderful shifts…Everything is strong. But I love the sound of the two boys singing together throughout, especially the ever so slightly elevated passion on ‘She would never be free…when I was around’ I love them. I love them. I love them.
38. Help! (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 15
Main Composer: Lennon
And now, ladies and jellyspoons, we return to the sub-section of Beatle tracks known as: Lennon’s cries for help. While ‘Yer Blues’ and ‘I’m a Loser’ were pretty transparent this one is LITERALLY a cry for help with an explanation mark and everything. And he was super serious.
Lennon saw this time as his ‘Fat Elvis’ period, and it is clear that while his face admittedly did have the glow of a woman in her second trimester, he was exaggerating the situation slightly. I mean, Elvis’s problems with consumption cost him his life. Lennon just got a bit chubby. But it hurt his ego. Lennon didn’t want to be the fat Beatle. More than that, he didn’t want to be the married Beatle.
McCartney’s dance card was full. At this time he was romancing actress/socialite Jane Asher and a dozen or so others (Not so twee when it came to the ladies were ya, ol’ Mull of Kintyre?) while Lennon had to make do with the same boring Wife and Son he had had for ages. It’s just not fair is it? Oh wait. Yes it is. Come on, Lennon…Don’t be that guy…
But here is the question, that has been asked so many times: Is it possible to be part of a phenomenon like that and come out of it a solid family man in your early 20’s? Almost certainly not. He also had pretty dodgy attachment issues anyway, meaning that it was never going to be easy: Add unlimited access to fame, food, drink and drugs? It was never going to happen. Not that this in anyway makes it up to Cyn and Julian. They should never have been made to feel like a consolation prize. But it does explain why Lennon felt his enviable place in the world was a badger trap his foot had got caught in.
Anyway, Lennon was unhappy with the production on his unhappy production. The call and answer siren, which makes the song so memorable, was too commercial for him. I can appreciate that: The whole thing seems a trifle too upbeat for such a mood and while that juxtaposition can work, I can see why it would make him wince. If you saw lyrics like: ‘My independence seems to vanish in the haze…Every now and then I feel so insecure’ written down you wouldn’t fit them with a song that ends with ‘Help me woooooooooooooooo…’ I feel like this was written slightly before The Beatles had truly broke free of their mercenary restrains. Help! Indeed.
Obviously I am still a fan though. It is one of those songs that you hear once and know forever. Harrison is doing some cool stuff on guitar (so what else is new right?) and Ringo is giving it some on the tom-toms (Naturalment!) everyone sounds tight (Of course…) and Lennon’s fixed smile cannot mask the boiling heat of desperation simmering below the surface of his cheerful delivery…
Won’t somebody please help him?
Favourite Bit: Harrison’s descending notes behind the song really sell ‘Help!’ as more than just a catchy ditty, capturing the mood even better than the showy lyrics do.
37. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 11
Main Composer: Lennon
Look, I believe everyone is entitled to their perspective on pop culture. Just because I don’t understand something, doesn’t mean people who get it are wrong anymore than it means I am a philistine. Living by this philosophy, respecting others basically, is easier said than done when it comes to things I am passionate about.
Recently I heard a media figure talking about Justin Bieber. Now, I don’t know much of the work of the Bieber: I can confidently point to two tracks he sings and I am not a fan of either of them. But that is ok. They are not for me. That does not make them bad. Just…not for me.
But when the media figure reflected that early Beatles was teeny bopper pop and then they went off the wall and came out with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ surprising everyone and he look forward to hearing Bieber’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ equivalent once he was done appealing to teens, I nearly flipped over my coffee table. I swore out loud in an empty room. I gritted my teeth so forcefully I heard something crack. My eye began to twitch and hasn’t stopped since.
Because as much as I would love to respect this…this…statement…I feel this person is beyond ignorant about pre Pepper Beatles. I suspect he is just saying words because, and we all do it, he needs to pretend to be knowledge about music. The Beatles appealed to teens and yes, some of their early work isn’t as good as what came later. But to dismiss EVERYTHING they did pre-Pepper as ‘Teen Pop’ tantamount to what is churned out by the Bieber machine is outrageous. If Justin Bieber, for all his talent at playing several musical instruments, marketing his hair, and driving poorly, has produced one song as strong, critically lauded and as fondly remembered as the 1964 Beatles album opener ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ I will drink out of a mop bucket the little cunt has peed in myself.
In the most long-shot defence of modern pop since all those think pieces about Nicki Minaj being a feminist, The Beatles had a lot more barriers to break through compared to now. Is it remotely possible for a modern musician to get an audience excited with an opening chord now? Probably not. But let us not linger in the present, when we have the past…
Pausing only to redefine song introductions and create another iconic moment in their own impressive history: And we are off! (Sorry I don’t know what the chord is. If you are interested look it up, but few can agree…)
Ringo, who it would seem was basically Lewis Carroll in disguise, pulled the phrase ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ out of his brain after leaving the studio and discovering at some point the day had become night and of course it demanded to be a song. And what a song! It is a euphoric burst of manic energy that captures the giddy fairground cliché that was Beatlemania. Even the weaker lyrical moments (I love the ‘I give up’ nature of a line ending in ‘You know I work all day…to get you money to buy you things’ Things. Good stuff.) just gets blown past at such a fast pace that it really doesn’t matter all that much if the title is the peak of the wordsmithery on display. I can’t really criticise. I just invented the word wordsmithery.
The lyrics were Lennon, scribbled on the back of his son Julian’s first birthday card (we get it John, you don’t care about your family, for the love of God…) but much of what makes this song such a classic is Harrison’s guitar work. Back then, a 12 string guitar was a rare thing and Harrison never got much time to work out what he was doing which only makes the final product all the more awe-inspiring. Both his solo and the fade out, give the tune depth and really make it soar. It is another great vocal performance too from both Lennon and McCartney. A+ all round, boys.
Nearly every time I have cited a song from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ on this list, which I maintain is an excellent album so this is a consistent theme, I have felt the need to mention the movie of the same name. It is a simple idea, but it works: The boys run around and…Well that’s it. But the script is sharp and endlessly quotable (‘How did you find America?’ ‘Turned left at Greenland’), they are all clearly having fun and for the soundtrack they only managed to blag the biggest band in the world: Them. Obviously. Anyway it is great and life affirming and way more fun than most films about things. It is worth it just to hear them sing…They’re going to give you everything. After all, I was never going to see them live. Watching the film keeps them forever young.
If Bieber’s film is still being watched in 50 years…We will talk.
Favourite Bit: It is getting harder and harder to single things out but I never could resist a McCartney Howl: ‘When I’m home…Feeling you holding me TIGHT! TIGHT! YEAH!’
Also, I would also like to recommend trying to check out the Goldie Hawn version of this (yes really) as her frustrated lounge singer act really does work in a very different way.
36. We Can Work it Out (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 30
Main Composer: McCartney (Lennon did the bridge)
I love this song. To be honest, this whole list has been a fucking delight to write about. I wrote down the order about 2 years ago now. Whenever I go back and look at what I have to review next I am excited and happy. That is what good music does to a person. It makes their soul light up.
Now the version of the song I want to post is a promo where the boys mime to ‘We can Work it Out’ but I would ask that you give it your full attention, for your own sake. It is glorious. Lennon is clearly arsing about (I would love to see what he is doing when he is out of shot) and McCartney is on the verge of giggling throughout at his antics, finally cracking completely right at the end and it is beyond delightful, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that Ringo and Harrison are stoney faced and bored throughout:
I love the creativity and theatricality of this song, with the interesting chords, slightly ominous and certainly sad sound of the harmonium and the inspired shift into a waltz which is so unique to this track alone.
‘We can Work it Out’ is another beast inspired by McCartney’s on/off relationship with Asher. But of course it is: I thought I could smell patronising! Sure it sounds fair, sweet and calming on the surface but imagine somebody actually saying this to you when you were angry and hurt about something: ‘Think of what you’re saying…you can get it wrong and still you think that it’s all right…’ Just…Gah. Lennon clearly thought so too and his contribution is the amazing bridge where he chimes in impatiently, with a brusque and threatening ‘Life is very short and there’s no time…So I will ask you once again…’ Their approaches to life and women were somewhat different and it is illustrated well here.
While both of them acknowledged that their attitudes to conflict (manipulative and rational vs heady and confrontational) came through in the song, some people interpret the sentiment of the track to actually be about the two of them and their natural sparring nature, an early warning sign of the breakdown in communication between the two leader types. Perhaps there was a little bit of that in there. But thankfully it would be a while before things fell apart.
Favourite Bit: I do love it when Lennon and McCartney sing together and the whole bridge, lyrically, vocally and musically is a highlight of my mine when considering everything they ever did. Life is very short…
35. Let it Be (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 8
Main Composer: McCartney
It seems strange to be saying this as a starting point: I feel this is one of the most overrated Beatle songs, when compared only to other songs by the Beatles. This is one of the most cited, covered and honoured works they ever did and while I think it is excellent I can’t honestly say I understand what makes it special to so many people. I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion the maudlin sentimentality of the production and the words transcended the band and seeped into public consciousness as a song that means something. Need something to be played while we show footage of sad things? Play ‘Let it Be.’ Need a graduation song? ‘Let it Be’ Something for our choir competition? ‘Let it Be’ A funeral? A wedding? A Christening? Whatever your event, ‘Let it Be’ can cater to you.
I am not saying I don’t see that is an evocative song. It makes me think of spirituality, loss, beauty, freedom, and all that good shit. But in a way I resent the impact it has on me because I feel manipulated by the ‘Ooooh/Ahhhhs,’ the Church style organ and the easy to digest imagery.
Do I sound like a snob? Maybe. I know I am more or less saying: ‘I prefer my Beatles songs less marketable’ when they were the most commercially successful band of all time. But I am listening to the Spector version and cringing. Just…No. This? Is not a Beatles song:
It wants to mean something so fucking bad. For three words that basically mean ‘Leave it Alone’ this version over eggs the pudding to the point that is not even a cake anymore: It is a unicorn made of rainbows. Even McCartney (you know, the guy who went on to form Wings) said Spector’s version ‘sounded terrible’ and Lennon, who had brought in Spector and would go on to work with him on his solos stuff, bluntly said the infamous ‘wall of sound’ production: ‘Puked all over it’
So how does it go down when you strip that stuff back? It works:
I like the other boys singing in the background. I like that it regains the simplicity of the music. It is still earnest and largely empty but it is sweet and retains a kind of community spirit, a Liverpudlian feel: It was supposed to have been inspired by a dream McCartney had about his mother, but then he would say that.
As you can tell, I have very mixed feelings about this song. So why has it ranked higher than stuff I have loved without doubt? Well there is a reason it has endured. The ease of the piano track and the lyrics, the heartfelt message of…something, and of course another wonderful McCartney vocal means that while I don’t think it deserves to be named the best Beatles song of all time (As it has been. Many fans of the boys really, really love it) it is pretty and deserving of recognition.
It started life as a track for Aretha Franklin and when I first heard her version (like a lot people, after I heard The Beatles doing it) I was struck by how right it felt in the hands of another artist: She makes it a love letter to God, an acceptance of how little control we have, a gospel song that sounds like a classic hymn, performed by one of the biggest and best vocals of any generation:
That voice can sell the melodrama and silliness of the production (there is a fucking saxophone!) and make it sound like it means something. Hell, Aretha could sell a used car made of mayonnaise and I would buy it.
But even she doesn’t make me cry. No. That…that only came when I got The Anthology collection in my hands. You see, Lennon was super critical of ‘Let it Be’ post break up, pointing out it was all McCartney’s ego and just a poor man’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ at that. And Rolling Stone magazine cite his quote in the Antholgy recording: ‘Are we supposed to giggle in the solo?’ as Lennon mocking the mawkishness of the song. But then McCartney says: ‘This is going to knock you out boy’ and sings his song. With sharp notes and ad libs. And it is lovely. And at the end, a slightly jokey and yet oddly thoughtful sounding Lennon says: ‘I think that was rather grand. I’d take one home with me’
This is my ‘Let it Be’ They were friends. They were brothers. And even Lennon understood there are times when you just have to…y’know…let it be.
Favourite Bit: The Anthology version is the only one that really captures the best of this song: That raw vocal from McCartney with amble support from a sorrowful sounding Lennon on every chorus just radiates beauty.
34. Blackbird (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 38
Main Composer: McCartney
Just to really highlight and hammer home my point that ‘Let it Be’ is not the best McCartney has to offer, I give you: ‘Blackbird.’ Ok this is just my opinion, save your angry emails…I often like light, folksy McCartney and this is such a charming little ditty that was all solo, just a man and his guitar. And recordings of a car alarm and a bird.
‘Blackbird’ was kind of McCartney’s answer to ‘Revolution’ as it was his political message and featured as part of the White Album. However he wasn’t lamenting the lack of bird song in the chart. This was McCartney’s quiet message of support and solidarity with black women struggling and surviving within the civil rights movement. But, as he put it, he didn’t want it to be called ‘Black women living in Little Rock’ presumably because it doesn’t scan as well. He wanted it to be a more symbolic and poetic reflection on how far they had come and how strong they had to be.
Patronising? Not really for me to say. I feel the ‘Black woman living in…’ version of the song would never have worked and this one does because it is quiet and not as pleased with itself as other McCartney songs with ‘messages’ are. I think it helps that he was in quite a hopeful place himself, meaning he was able to approach a song about other people without his usual ‘will people buy it?’ calculations and with a refreshing lack of vanity. Christ, he is almost tender in his delivery. How come? Linda. McCartney performed this song for the very first time to a group of insanely lucky fans who were camping outside his house. He opened the window late at night, called down to see if they were still there, and played them his new song. The self same night Linda stayed over with him for the first time. McCartney was no longer a boy. He was maturing. He was in love entering into a lovely new time in his life…
Ok so this was around the same time he wrote ‘Why Don’t we do it in the Road?’ about two monkeys fucking in the street, but…Just let me have this one. Please?
(By the way, that song doesn’t make the cut.)
Favourite Bit: I love how the lyric: ‘All your life…you were only waiting for this moment to arise’ is triumphant, hopeful and sad all at the same time. Not everyone lived to see change for the better. Good people died for the simple message of ‘Why don’t we all treat each other good and see what happens?’ It seems obvious but the fight goes on. 10 minutes on the internet will show you that…
33. I’m So Tired (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 83
Main Composer: Lennon
My name is Cokieblume (it isn’t really) and I am an insomniac. It is 05:01. And I am awake. A horrible kind of awake that only really happens because of a brutal and inexhaustible feeling that something is not quite right and it cannot be fixed. Ok, it doesn’t help that I like writing best of all in the middle of the night and before you know it, the middle of the night can become the early morning…
Nonetheless, this right here? Is my jam. I feel ya, Lennon. I feel every word of this song. Well apart from the bit about Sir Walter Thingy. True story: My version of this song used to cut off right after this line for some reason, meaning that for a good few years I thought that was the end of the song and that the whole thing had been a build up so Lennon could stick two fingers up at a long dead aristocrat.
Even the music sounds groggy and sleepy, the vocal matches it perfectly (this is one of the few songs where Lennon admitted he sounded good) and the sentiment is painfully familiar to me. Sometimes when I am especially out of it I find myself howling: ‘I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little piece of mind’ to nobody in particular. I likes drama.
But to be fair, so do a lot of people. How else do you explain that many fans insisted that the mumbling at the end of the song was Lennon saying ‘Paul’s dead, I miss him, I miss him’ rather than ‘mumble mumble mumble’? Talk about hearing what you want to hear…
So why was Lennon up past his bedtime? He wrote this in India, pining for Yoko while married to Cyn, with his body readjusting due to not being able to have booze, cigarettes or pot while hanging with the Maharishi. His mind would race at night after mediating all day (is that how it is supposed to work?) driving him to the brink of despair with insomnia. You heard it here first. Relaxing is bad for you.
Anyway, it is the inner monologue of so many insomniacs that I feel like it should be our national (we are a nation now yes?) anthem. He nailed it. And now I might go to bed. But first…
Favourite Bit: The delivery of the bridge as a note of urgency begins to creep in…
32. Drive my Car (1966) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 43
Main Composer: McCartney (Lennon was also involved, but I would give the edge to Paul)
So this has become infamous for being the end result of a nearly dry writing session between McCartney and Lennon. The original line was about ‘ Buying Golden Rings’ but as that wasn’t great, they had a cup of tea and knocked out ‘Drive my Car’ instead. It is not the best anecdote I have ever heard, but you’d think it was given how many times McCartney trots it out on chat show appearances. I suppose the reason people like it is it makes them sound so ordinary when they were anything but. Two mates working on a song, drinking tea and having a cigarette together.
Anyway, ‘Drive my Car’ is the brilliant opener to ‘Rubber Soul’ an album which I feel often gets overlooked as a game changer for the boys in terms of musical experimentation. ‘Drive my Car’ isn’t especially unique or anything. It is just fun. That’s all. A little narrative about a girl who flirts with a dude by suggesting he be her chauffeur only to admit at the end she doesn’t even have a car. Also ‘drive my car’ is a blues expression meaning ‘Let’s have some sex.’ Clever.
More rock than blues, Harrison was influenced by Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’ and gave this track a bass sound that had not really been heard on any of their records before. McCartney’s vocal is notably more rock than pop (always a plus in my book) and there is even a jazzy piano and some funky chords for those of us who like our songs to have a lot going on. With all that genre jumping and word play, it could have ended up clunky (like Ringo’s cowbell) but instead it is a slick, confident opener that is easy to retain and boogie on down to. Yes. I say boogie on down sometimes.
I really love all the elements at play in the song and I am glad the boys hit upon the lyrics they did: It is great to be able to follow the story and get a kick out of where it goes. Plus they all sound like they are having a ball: ‘Beep-beep-beep-beep-yeah!’ indeed.
Favourite Bit: I think it has to be the piano part actually.
31. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 60
Main Composer: McCartney
So what do you do when you are tired of being the biggest band in the whole universe ever? Easy! Be a new band! Write a concept album! Cause Brian Wilson to have a nervous breakdown! Life is sweet! And so the Sargent was born…
The landscape was changing and leading the charge was The Beach Boys and ‘Pet Sounds.’ The creativity behind their vocals, music and song writing inspired The Beatles to push their sound into new places. Brian Wilson is rumoured to have had a bit of a meltdown upon hearing that he had somehow made The Beatles better, faster, stronger and retreated to live in a sauna for a few years to calm down. That’s show business I suppose. But what of the little people?
I was very young the first time my Dad sat me down and put on this record and my little brain nearly exploded. And that was just from looking at the record sleeve! Even as a tyke, I knew I was looking at history, something eternal, something unstoppable. And then everyone settled down and that intro kicked in…
Of course, people debate if ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ actually constitutes a concept album when the concept is largely abandoned before the end. It has a beginning and a conclusion of sorts but of what comes in between is simply good music and there isn’t much of a theme. Nonetheless, the images, the sounds and the ideas are iconic and nothing will change that.
But what of the song? It is exciting. Even McCartney sounds liberated, bellowing in a happy yelp, introducing a new band to the world…He beckoned me in to Pepper Land and I haven’t really left since. A Staggering opener to what is one of the great moments in music, nay all, history.
Favourite Bit: I think the introduction bit of the guitar, just because it takes me back immediately to sitting crossed legged on a horrible carpet in a little bungalow, pitched far too close to the speakers, hugging the record sleeve and realising that The Beatles were cool.
Next Time…We answer the unanswerable: Who is Billy Shears? Did Lennon set someone’s furniture on fire for making him sleep in a bath? And how does a Nun creep anyway? 30-21